Readying ’cross tires for the off-season

With most of us hanging up our `cross bikes for the year, Lennard Zinn details those steps necessary to protect your tires.

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Dear Lennard,
Cycloross nationals are over, the snow is flying, but what to do with our `cross tires and wheels? Some of us need to use our ’cross wheels on the road.

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Hills hooking up the suction widget to the shop vacuum.

How do we store the tires: on the wheel, off the wheel, folded, inflated, deflated? Sealant in or out? If out, how do you get it out?

Where basement, crawl space, garage, custom built humidor (now there’s a market) or can I take over the china hutch in the dining room? By the way, she won’t be in the dining room till next Thanksgiving and I’ll have `em out by then.

Should I generate some heat in there with a light bulb. If so, what watt bulb in the hutch would work best?

Should we pick next year’s tires now and season them? Honestly, I have no idea what “season” means, but I did read that Lance Armstrong’s mechanic did that at one time.

Dear Karl,
Your question motivated me to prep my ’cross tubulars for storage and document it. I also solicited recommendations on tubular storage from Vittoria, Clément, Tufo, and, and have included their answers below. Furthermore, the folks at Clément and Tufo answered your question regarding the “seasoning” of the tires.

Sealant suction tool; stainless tube fits in valve stem; view liquid flow through translucent Teflon tubing.

Removing sealant
When I have a real tech geek job to do, I often head over to my friend Alan Hills’ place. He is a chemist who thinks about every detail of his bike ad infinitum, and he has all sorts of fittings, hoses, and chemicals that can come in handy, as well as a nice, heated shop.

I’m a believer in putting latex-based sealant in my ’cross tubulars (and clincher tubes) prophylactically, and I’ve also seen the stuff solidify in tubeless tires during storage without use. I have found that some sealants can be partially polymerized in the bottle before being used, so I think that storing a wheel containing sealant for eight months after cross season is asking for trouble. As I do not want to have a mass of coagulated latex sitting in my tires and unbalancing them with useless weight, I chose to remove it. I answered a reader named Don’s question about how to remove sealant in my November 11 column, but I want to add to that that now.

Don asked about a tire mounted on its rim, and Alan and I first tried a rig hooked up to a shop vacuum to suck sealant out of a mounted tire that he has often used on Tufo tubulars. As you can see in the photo, the widget has a thin stainless tube that fits down into the valve stem. It consists of a 3-inch section of 1/8-inch stainless tubing, which is then connected to ¼-inch translucent Teflon tubing, which is further connected via a large, flared-out tube to a shop vacuum. The compression fittings are scientific grade but could also be hardware store items.

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Attempting, unsuccessfully, to suck sealant out of a mounted Challenge Fango tubular.

Most critical to the design is the small tubing section. If it’s too small, flow will be restricted and the sealant can “seal” itself by coagulation. If the tool is too large it won’t fit inside the valve stem. The tubing must be just long enough to reach all the way to the bottom of the tubular, which is where the liquid sealant resides. You can monitor sealant removal progress by viewing the flow past the translucent tubing section. Frequent rinses of the removal tool in warm water with the shop vacuum running prevent sealant from plugging up the removal tool.

On Tufo tubulars, which, as you may know, have no tube inside and whose casings hold their shape quite well, it seems to work like a charm. The tires were mounted on rims, and we weighed them before and after and got out almost the same amount in grams as had been installed in milliliters during the season. We let the wheel stand for some time with the valve at the bottom and the tire inflated before we removed the valve core and stuck the stainless tube down into the tire and turned on the vacuum.

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Injecting water into a mounted Challenge Fango tubular to rinse out the sealant.

On a tubular with a tube in it, the vacuum did not seem to work at all, whether the tire was on or off the rim, despite moving the suction device around in the tire and pinching the tire in an attempt to keep an area open around the tip. We could only use it in my Challenge Fangos, as my Vittoria Evo XM and Evo XGs have a valve stub coming out of the inner tube. The entire Vittoria valve assembly (various valve lengths will eventually be available) screws onto it. The inner diameter of that stub is too narrow to allow the stainless steel suction tube inside. The narrow opening of the stainless tube already chokes the vacuum motor and also has a tendency to clog up with sealant, so switching to a smaller tube on the suction device is not an option.

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Vittoria tubular valve stub. Silver valve extender added due to unavailability of the required length of the red valve stem.

With the vacuum sucking on the Challenge tires and by checking before and after weight, we only succeeded in getting about 1-2 grams of sealant out, when I know I had injected 30g (30ml) of sealant into them. I would guess that the explanation is that the thin latex inner tube might fold and prevent flow and might collapse around the suction tip. By contrast, a Tufo tubular, being hollow inside like a garden hose, allows the sealant to flow to the suction tip and does not collapse under suction.

Another possible explanation might also have to do with the sealant type. In the Vittoria and Challenge tires, I used Caffé Latex, which foams up and possibly prevents flow even when left to sit for a couple of weeks. The Tufos, on the other hand, had Tufo sealant inside, which does not foam up.

When suction failed, I decided to remove all of the Vittoria and Challenge tubulars from their rims and try squeezing the sealant out of them as I had suggested in my November 11 post. Before attempting this, I had hung them for a while with the valve at the bottom, but again, I was sorely disappointed, as the only tire I got a significant amount of sealant out of was one that I had not yet ridden on. The others spurted out a few drops, if that.

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Hills keeps copious bike data and checks that his bikes “make weight” before races, indicating no water trapped in his rims.

So, we rinsed them out with water. We used a syringe and squirted about 100ml of water in each one. The syringe tip (without a needle on it) fit well into the end of the valve stem on the Challenges, but we had to find a short adaptor hose to fit over the syringe tip and the valve stub on the Vittorias.

We sloshed the water all around in them and then hung them valve down. We removed the valves or valve cores and started rolling each tire from the top to squeeze the water down toward the valve. We got out a lot of water turned white with sealant. I then inflated the tires (still not mounted on rims) to maybe 20-25psi and stood them up like hoops on edge with the valves down to drain any additional liquid down to the valve. Then on subsequent days, I turned each one inside out so that the valve pointed straight down, opened the valve, and drained the tire completely. As far as I can tell, this removed any free water remaining in the tires.

Alan rinses his Tufos out at the end of every season and sucks the water out with the vacuum, but since the vacuum would not work on the tubulars with inner tubes, I’m left with them simply drained and squeezed out. While a small amount of water likely remains inside, I still think that it’s better than leaving sealant in them. I do not have wheels lying around to keep all of them on rims that I could spin regularly to keep the sealant distributed, and I bet I’d forget even if I did. And even if I did spin them regularly until next September, I still think it’s likely that some of the sealant would congeal, since we all know that latex tubes allow air to bleed in and out.

Until the `cross bug takes hold of me again at the end of next summer, I intend to inflate them and deflate regularly to vent any remaining water, and I will leave them slightly inflated, lying on their side covered in a huge plastic bag in a dark, dry attic. As I trust Alan on all things chemical, and he assures me that the size of an H2O molecule is as small as an N2 or O2, then I think the water vapor should pass through the latex tubes just as the air will.

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Letting tubulars stand inflated to drain liquid to the valve.

Gluing notes
From removing my 10 tubulars, I have blisters on the sides of both of my thumbs. I also have learned a lot about the efficacy of my gluing methods. Here is the order of adhesion, from strongest bond to weakest, based on the amount of effort it took for me to remove them. All tires were of course coated with glue as well.

  1. Aluminum rim coated with layers of Vittoria Mastik One glue layered with “Belgian Tape” from
  2. I did not try straight glue on an aluminum rim, but I bet that would have slotted in here.
  3. Carbon rim coated with layers of Vittoria Mastik One glue.
  4. Carbon rim coated with layers of Vittoria Mastik One glue layered with “Belgian Tape” from
  5. Carbon rim coated with layers of Continental glue.
  6. NOT RECOMMENDED: Carbon rim coated with layers of Vittoria Mastik One glue layered with Tufo Extreme Tape – this method I strongly recommend against, since, besides the fact that they were easy to pull off, I rolled three tires this season with this setup.

Aluminum vs. carbon rims and gluing methods
Interestingly, when pushing a tire that has been glued with the Belgian Tape and glue method off of an aluminum rim, the tape stays adhered to the rim, and it is a struggle to get the tire to come off of the tape. But when pushing a tire glued and taped with this method off of a carbon rim, the tape stays on the tire, and it snaps off of the rim with considerably less force than pulling the tire off of the tape adhered to an aluminum rim.

A tire glued with just Mastik One (four rim layers, two tire layers) on a carbon rim did seem to be marginally harder to remove than ones glued with this same glue and Belgian Tape. But both took considerable effort to remove and would not have rolled off while racing, I’m quite certain. Continental glue alone allowed the tire to be removed more easily yet, but I’m also confident that this would have been secure in races (and it has been for Alan for many seasons with this method). Don’t use Tufo Extreme Tape for cyclocross.

Re-gluing next season
If you’re going to re-glue the same tire onto the same rim either now or in the future, mark the tire and rim with indelible marker before pulling the tire off so that you can install the tire in exactly the same orientation (after you’ve put another thin layer of glue on the rim and tire). All of the blobs and depressions in the glue will mate up with each other, and the tire will sit just as straight as you had it before. If you do not, it is very hard to remove all of the glue blobs and imperfections on the tire and the rim, and you will be fighting it to get the tire to sit straight, despite all of the time you took cleaning glue off of the two surfaces.

From Cyclocrossworld

Some things to think about when storing/removing tires:

  • Take them off carefully.
  • Store them at room temperatures.
  • Do not leave them anywhere where it may be damp, as it can cause them to rot.
  • Do NOT fold the tires in any way.
  • Store them so they keep a round shape – garden hose hangers work nicely.

I am not sure about the sealant thing. I have only used it for small repairs. I don’t seal tires as a protective measure. So I can’t really offer much advice on this aspect.

Stu Thorne
Managing Director
Cyclocrossworld, Inc.

Tubular storage recommendations from manufacturers:

From Vittoria:

About storage: better to keep tubulars on the rim slightly deflated and hung on a wall. The aim is not to have them deformed by touching the ground with not enough pressure to hold it on (leaving tire unused for a while will reduce slowly the pressure till zero).

Folding tires follow the same rule.

If this is not possible, a good alternative is to put them on a flat surface, completely laying on it, not hanging them. Aim again is to avoid any deformation.

Temperature variation is not a big deal, humidity is to be avoided if possible, sunlight or any other sources of ultraviolet rays must be absolutely keep away from rubbers. Covering tires is always a good habit, even for short time storage.

About the sealant, if there is still some in liquid form, try to remove it. It is a hard task but with some patience it is possible with a removable valve and a syringe. If the sealant is already dried up, it can be left there with no problems.
Samuele Bressan
Product Manager & Designer, Vittoria

From Tufo North America

Store Tufo `cross tubulars in dark and dry place, best stored on a rim inflated to 30 psi.

The sealant cannot be removed, only in case there was an excess amount applied.

No need to season new tires.
Vladimir Juhas

From Clément

Best to keep the tires on spare rims during storage. If not available then place the tires on their side, do not hang them on their own or fold them. If placed on their sided then flip them when you check the psi.

Check the air pressure from time to time. Best to have some inflation – 15 to 25psi

The temperature should be mild with as little humidity as possible. Low light or no light.

It is okay to keep the sealant in the tires, but I would spin the tires periodically.

As for seasoning and aging tires, this was very important in the past as most tubulars did not have any protective belt and the “seasoning” allowed the tread to cure to a slightly harder composition. Most tubulars now have a protective belt and the rubber compound has improved. But with that said, there are more than a few Pro Tour head mechanics today that swear on aging tubulars for one year before they are used. Some of this is a carryover tradition and they, the head mechanics, have as many, let’s say, “traditions” as the riders.

As for taking over the China hutch, you are on your own with that one, Karl. We are “Switzerland” when it comes to those types of domestic situations.
Donn Kellogg
GM – Donnelly Sports (Clément licensee)

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Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (, a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn. Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.